Продолжая углубленные исследования на эту тему, не мог не отметить две статьи на тему женщин и денег.
Is it true what they say about the city's women? And what are they saying? Chitralekha Basu finds out more in Shanghai.
The myth about Shanghai women as material girls endures, both in popular imagination and the realm of fiction. On one end of the literary spectrum are Eileen Chang's passionately individualistic heroines, who are both powerful and vulnerable when they use their sexuality to get ahead with men.
On the other are page-turners like Wei Hui's Shanghai Baby, in which Coco, the protagonist, writes and fornicates at a furious pace, even as she measures people by the brands they wear.
Shanghai is - in the imagination of the non-Shanghainese - inextricably linked to sleaze, shadiness and materialism. And when you add sexuality to this heady concoction, it often gives a whole new twist to the city's already dodgy image.
Recently, at an event hosted by Hong Kong-based Make Do Publishing at Garden Books in Shanghai, authors Mina Hanbury-Tenison and Chen Xiwo painted Shanghainese women in an image that might - from the perspective of old-school believers in the idea of romantic love - look less than flattering.
It was somewhat unsettling, in fact, to hear the duo dismiss the idea of this primal emotion among human beings altogether, looking at sex and sexuality from a purely utilitarian view - a situation in which disinterested romantic love, ostensibly, does not figure any more.
In fact, says Hanbury-Tenison, the author of Shanghai Girls: Uncensored and Unsentimental - a guide to hooking a rich husband and keeping him - her colleagues in Shanghai thought her book was "mild and, therefore, useless". The real situation, she insists, is far more ruthless and unsparingly competitive.
Shanghai Girls: Uncensored and Unsentimental is based on the firsthand account of Shanghai girl Lan Lan, who goes from being the girl next door to a successful entrepreneur living between New York and Shanghai - having married three times in between, successively into greater affluence.
Chen Xiwo, known for his cynical take on human relationships and explicit descriptions of "aberrant" sexuality, took a shockingly amoral view of the idea that Shanghai women were materialistic.
"Men from Fuzhou (Chen's native town) thought of the Shanghai women as too cheap and too much of go-getters," he says. But then, he adds, women in certain regions of China have, traditionally, "relied on prostitution to get ahead".
"I have had women friends who would, if they were raped on the street, passively enjoy rather than resist, particularly if the guy in question were attractive," he says. "Isn't getting oneself a rich husband whom one does not love tantamount to giving oneself up for rape?"
While Chen's extreme, and somewhat perverse, views about the victim enjoying being raped might be put to scrutiny (when was the act of rape anything other than exploitation of the weak and a gross display of power?), our immediate concern has to do with the ladies of Shanghai.
Are they the soulless go-getters they are made out to be? Are the duo of Chen and Hanbury-Tenison being unfair in tarring all Shanghai women with one brush?
We put the question to some of the leading writers who have made the figure of the Shanghainese woman central to their work.
Qiu Xiaolong, whose Inspector Chen series of stories are as widely admired for the deft handling of the mystery genre as for the ringside view they offer into the backstreets of Shanghai, admits that the reigning sentiment in today's China "is one of blatant, systematic materialism" and Shanghai women are no exception.
"It partially comes as a result of the disillusion out of the 'cultural revolution' (1966-76)," he says. "The only thing people can grasp for themselves comes in the materialistic form."
He is pained to see "a number of Shanghai women could be utilitarian" in choosing their partners. "But then, the same can be said of other cities and countries. You don't have to take Becky Sharp of Vanity Fair as the representative of British women."
Even as he is concerned about the "general moral landslide", he would want to believe it was "not necessarily something unchanging".
When we ask him if the idea of pure, disinterested love still figures in the lives of Shanghainese women, he says: "It does - at least among a small number of Chinese women. At least I hope so."
Looking back on the women in her novels, Chen Danyan finds they are, in fact, "after love, not so much wealth or desirability".
Chen's The Shanghai Princess - the saga of the Australian-Chinese Daisy Kwok who went through dramatically transformative experiences in Shanghai from 1917 to the 1990s - is about a great survivor who chooses to stay on in China despite the odds, all for the love of her husband.
Yaoyao, a character in Chen's book, The Old Stories of Shanghai Beauties, too, "represents pure love", the author says. "She follows love until her death and never strays from her true emotions because of material desires."
So how do the real-life Shanghainese women compare with her unspoiled heroines? "Shanghai girls, have, in fact, become more sagacious than the way I described them in some of my novels'."
Personally, Chen wouldn't take a charitable view of "gold diggers". But she acknowledges "it's in human nature to be attracted by beauty and power", and Shanghai women are no exceptions.
Gold digging, Wang Xiaoying insists, works on either side of the gender divide.
"I know of men hunting for girls from wealthy families," Wang says.
Wang, who has lived for decades together in the French Concession area of Shanghai's Huaihai Road, should know a thing or two about social aspirations and marriage.
At the center of her major work, Song of a Long Road, is a maid who falls in love with the young master of the house. To prove herself a worthy match, she works toward becoming a successful businesswoman herself.
"Love is the core motivation for her to pursue money and status," says Wang, and not the other way round.
"Women in Shanghai do use their feminine wiles to go after desirable men," says Sam Gaskin, associate editor of Time Out, Shanghai.
"Just as men use their masculine wiles to go after desirable women. And it's not something that just happens here," he continues.
"Sure, some individuals are less genuinely interested in the people they pursue. But it's lazy to attribute that sort of cynical approach to millions of people who happen to live in the same place - though I'm sure it makes writing books and articles easier."
Gaskin, who has made Shanghai his home since 2007, feels Hanbury-Tenison's perspective on the city's women is limited.
"The Shanghai girls described in books like Hanbury-Tenison's are all bundled together, whereas the Shanghai women I meet are all different," he says.
"The truth is that there's much more similarity among groups of people, and much more diversity within them, than people usually acknowledge. Hanbury-Tenison knows that, and she knows that it's not a narrative her publisher would be much interested in."
That's an advantage to Shanghai women then. Hanbury-Tenison serves.
A 21-year-old woman from Hubei Province, known as Meixin to her clients, touched up her makeup at a pink neon light-decorated hair salon, waiting for her first client. It was a slow Tuesday night, she said, typical of a weekday.
"I have been working at this salon for almost two years. I think of myself as a sex worker, not a prostitute," she insisted. "We see all kinds of people here who pay for sex, mostly taxi drivers."
Meixin's biggest fear is being arrested for prostitution, a crime punishable by up to 15 days of detention and a 5,000 yuan ($790) fine. Two of her friends from the same hometown were caught before Spring Festival, and they decided to quit and go home.
"It's a shady business, but it doesn't have to be. I am not hurting anyone as a sex worker," she said. "Mistresses do not get penalized for trading sex for handbags and cars, why should I be punished for doing exactly the same?"
Although National People's Congress deputy Chi Susheng, who has campaigned for years to make prostitution legal, is not renewing this motion this year at the NPC, attention is still being paid to her consistent advocacy for the cause.
Rights of prostitutes
Chi, also a lawyer from Heilongjiang Province, did not change her stance when facing the media during the ongoing twin sessions.
She suggested that the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases could be controlled and even prevented if prostitution was no longer considered a crime. She said such measures would ensure that sex workers would be subject to regular health checks.
But the lawmaker added a clause to her proposition that prostitutes without a health license, or who were not working at a registered facility should face harsher punishment of prison terms of up to three years - a move she said would regulate the sex industry.
"Sex workers deserve to have their rights protected," Chi told local media during the two sessions held in Beijing last week. "Prostitution exists, and my proposal to legalize the business will help eliminate threats to both prostitutes and their customers."
Chi further defended her proposal by saying that legalizing prostitution could reduce the number of criminal rapes in the country.
Voices of morality
Hong Ruiqi, a 60-year-old neighborhood committee social worker in Shanghai, stridently opposed making prostitution legal, saying that it would destroy a community.
"No one wants a brothel with its door wide open in their neighborhood," she said. "Rape will not be reduced, simply because people can openly pay for sex. It is a twisted idea."
Hong insisted that criminalizing prostitution is the only effective way to stem the immoral practice and through education, people should learn that buying sex is dangerous and harmful to family harmony.
"Instead of making prostitution legal, the punishment to prostitutes should be harsher," she said. "They should be penalized in such a way that no one would risk visiting a brothel."
Other people on the Internet shared Hong's views, saying that Chinese traditional morals should be upheld.
Chi has received hundreds of attacks online, some of them rude and personal.
"It is shameful to have a lawmaker saying that prostitution should be made legal," a netizen named "Sunshine morning" wrote. "Would Chi allow her own daughter to become a prostitute? We say no to her disastrous proposal."
According to an ongoing online survey conducted by ifeng.com, more than 87 percent of 7.7 million respondents disagreed with Chi's proposal and picked the survey option that it would "bring the fall of morality." However, a poll conducted by Sina Weibo found 68 percent of more than 43,700 participants supporting Chi.
Li Yinhe, a prominent Chinese scholar on women's rights, stands with Chi, as she proposed prostitution be decriminalized a decade ago.
"Prohibition simply does not work for eliminating prostitution," she told the Global Times. "Prohibitionist policies toward the sex industry only drive this social norm underground, which breeds violence and exploitation."
Li suggested that if prostitution was regulated and decriminalized, the public would be better protected as crime rates would drop and the number of sexually transmitted diseases would drastically decrease. She pushed for legalized prostitution as an answer to a "rigid demand."
"During my research in Shaanxi Province a couple of years ago, I realized that the male-female ratio is becoming an enormous problem in rural areas," Li said. "Sexual needs are basic instincts and prostitution answers this need."
Li urged the government to focus on regulating the sex industry, but not to ignore it. She said it is an easy option to imagine that the police could catch all prostitutes, but it is simply not the case.
"As long as there are people who pay for sex, there will be prostitutes," she said. "To simply believe that men would all be faithful to their wives when prostitutes are gone is just na?ve."
Li said although the opposition against legalizing the sex trade is still strong, from her decade-long observation, the Chinese people have been gradually showing more tolerance of this ancient trade.
"Many people are turning from strong opposition toward being able to at least ignore the existence of sex workers, which is progress," Li said.